After months of speculation about when the St. Louis Cardinals would start top prospect Oscar Taveras‘ service clock, we finally have an answer. According to Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes, Taveras will be called up by the Cardinals, and will presumably join the team Saturday. If he stays in the big leagues without being sent down, Taveras is likely to qualify for Super Two status and undergo arbitration 4 times rather than the traditional 3. Regardless, the team’s lineup will be receiving a boost by Taveras’ call up.
It will be a much anticipated debut for the left-handed Taveras, who has been a consensus top-5 prospect in baseball prior to both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The 22-year old has done nothing but hit in his minor league career, putting up a .321/.377/.519 line since signing with the Cardinals out of the Dominican Republic. He likely would have seen at least some big league time last season, but he missed significant time with an ankle injury and played in just 46 games. This year, he has made up for lost time, posting an outstanding .325/.373/.524 line, a 132 wRC+, and a 25-14 K-BB ratio in Triple-A. He has seen more time in center field than at the corners, and he will probably see time there in the big leagues. But, he is a better fit in right field than in center, and his long-term future likely lies there. Overall, Taveras seems poised to be a great all-around hitter and a capable defender for years to come.
As far as where Taveras fits in with the Cardinals, that remains to be seen. We do know that GM John Mozeliak has said repeatedly that Taveras would only be called up to play everyday. The Cardinals outfield has primarily consisted of Peter Bourjos in center, Matt Holliday in left, and Allen Craig in right. Taveras will most likely replace Bourjos on an everyday basis, allowing Bourjos and his speed to slot into more of a late-innings defensive replacement and pinch-runner role. Craig does have experience at first base, so we could see him play there occasionally with Bourjos in center and Taveras in right. Putting Bourjos and his outstanding defense on the bench most nights might not be the most ideal situation, but when it is to accommodate one of the game’s most promising young hitters, the Cardinals will hardly be complaining.
It might have been a little later than most people thought thanks to his injury-riddled 2013, but Oscar Taveras is finally ready to make his big league debut. After tearing up the minor leagues for the last 6 years, he has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. Of course, you never know how a prospect will respond to the pressures of the bug leagues. But if everything can come together for Taveras, the St. Louis Cardinals might just have one of the game’s most talented hitters on their hands.
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